Avoiding and Treating Hospital-Acquired Infections: C. Difficile

Avoiding C. Difficile and Other Hospital-Acquired Infections

Clostridium difficile bacteria.
Clostridium difficile bacteria. DR KARI LOUNATMAA/Getty Images

Patients who have stayed in the hospital for long periods of time are at greater risk for contracting hospital-acquired conditions -- illnesses they don't have when they enter the hospital but contract while they are there. C. Diff is the abbreviated name for Clostridium difficile (pronounced klaw-STRID-ee-im dif-i-SEEL), is one such hospital-acquired infection that affects patients who take antibiotics.

One of the problems with C.Diff is that it is so easily spread. It lives on surfaces for a long period of time, and is transferred by touch. In the hospital, it's not unusual to find C.Diff spores on bedrails, bed linens, the TV remote, the telephone, the bathroom door handle or fixtures -- anywhere. Bleach is required to kill it on those surfaces in order to prevent it from spreading to patients who touch the surfaces it resides on.

The most recognizable symptom of C. Diff is diarrhea which may be accompanied by fever, loss of appetite, nausea, cramping or belly pain or tenderness.

Treating C. Diff

Ironically, even though C.Diff can be the result of antibiotic exposure, it is also treated using antibiotics. The antibiotics of choice for most patients are metronidazole or oral vancomycin.

If you are hospitalized and begin to suffer from diarrhea or run a fever, it may be C. Diff. Know that you can be treated for it, but that you can pass it on to others, too.

Be sure to wash and disinfect your hands and anything else you touch (including the list above) so you won't spread it elsewhere.

While most people who contract C. Diff in the hospital will be treated successfully, for those who are immunocompromised, it can be deadly. According to the CDC, 100,000 Americans die from hospital acquired infections each year.

C. Diff is one of those infections, and its death rate is rising.

Preventing C. Diff

The best advice, of course, is to prevent C. Diff to begin with, which you can do by following the advice for preventing hospital acquired infections.

Learn about additional infections hospital patients must be be concerned about:

References:

Clostridium difficile (Colitis) from About.com's Guide to Infectious Diseases.

Frequently Asked Questions about Clostridium difficile from the CDC.

Clostridium difficile Infection from the American Academy of Family Practitioners (FamilyDoctor.org).

C. difficile from the Mayo Clinic.

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